Commentary: Kitefoiler Max Maeder’s NS deferment highlights the value all sports can


At the same time, the policymakers at the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) have clearly been exploring ways to work within the set parameters of NS obligations, while creating optimal conditions for athletes seeking to balance both NS and their sporting aspirations.

These include early enlistment and short postponements of enlistment dates should there be a clash with major competitions. 

There are also various provisions to support full-time national servicemen (NSFs) to train for and compete in major events, subject to their NS operational commitments. These allow more flexibility for sportsmen, yet ensure equity with their peers who do not receive these privileges.

They include training leave that does not count towards one’s full-time NS duration and can be taken flexibly according to training and competition needs. This balances sporting pursuits with NS obligations, as the sportsman would have to extend his NS by the duration of his training leave.

But the measure that has historically had the biggest impact is the long-term deferment of NS. Such deferments have been granted very selectively for exceptional sportsmen assessed to be potential medal winners at international competitions like the Olympics and who are able to bring national pride to Singapore.

In the past, this has been extended to six athletes – five swimmers (legendary sprinter Ang Peng Siong, Peter Leong, Sng Ju Wei, Quah Zheng Wen and Singapore’s first Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling), and a sailor (coincidentally another Maximilian, in this case Soh).

The addition of Maeder to this list is significant for a number of reasons. First, it is for an athlete competing in a relatively less-established sport. Kitefoiling, which sees riders surf above the surface of the water on hydrofoils with the use of huge kites, is only just making its Olympic debut in Paris this year.

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